Planning for Severe Weather Events

A look at preparations that construction professionals and business owners can take to keep their crews and businesses safe during hurricanes and severe weather events

If you are anywhere near the State of Florida (even Georgia at this point), then by now you have witnessed the state of chaos that ensues when a hurricane is announced.  Gas stations are already backed up with long lines, and many grocery stores remain sold out of water; with the mad rush, it is easy to join the wave of panic when it comes to preparing your family and your business for a hurricane.  But don’t panic just yet… As of today, 08/30/19, there is still ample time to make efforts to secure your office and job sites, as well as provide helpful information to the public and your clients about staying safe before, during and after the hurricane makes landfall.

Prepare Your Employees – From your employees to your subcontractors, now is the time to confirm their availability and readiness post-hurricane. First and foremost, you should have an established evacuation plan and system for everyone checking in and reporting their safety status.  Down power lines and trees may prevent them from getting to where they need to be in a timely manner.  This system should factor in potential power outages, flooding, satellite/internet interruption, as well as the various locations where crew members may be situated; it can be as simple as a call-in system, phone/call tree, and/or a form that everyone fills out in advance.

Prepare Job Sites – With the latest report (source: Weather Channel) reflecting a delay in the storm making landfall in Florida, there is still time to prepare your job sites.  While having your crews out during the weekend isn’t ideal, I have yet to meet a client who would turn down the support and property preparation. In addition to securing open projects and making sure they are watertight, all equipment, tools, materials and machinery should be removed from job sites.  Loose objects and materials become major hazards with heavy wind, and by leaving them on the job site, you are leaving your clients and surrounding neighbors at risk for property damage.

Prepare Your Clients – As outlined in a previous post (“Communication is Crucial During Hurricane Season”), communication with customers before and after the storm should be an integral part of your preparations. Even if you do not have an open job with a client, informing your client base of your closing or revised hours would be the bare minimum and can be executed with a simple email blast. As a construction professional, you are well positioned to provide storm safety resources and tips to your clients for ensuring that their homes and properties are properly prepared for high winds, heavy rain and potential flooding. Use this time as an opportunity to engage customers and provide tools to guide them through what can be a daunting, and sometimes panic-filled, process.  OSHA, FEMA, CDC and other government agencies offer checklists and hurricane preparedness advice that can benefit you and your clients, including but not limited to:

Checklist for disaster and emergency supplies kit

A worksheet and tools for building your emergency response plan

Tips for Preparing an Emergency Food and Water Supplies

Clean Up Safety Guidelines

Prepare the Office – Preparing your business and office goes beyond shutters and protecting high value equipment and technology. Important insurance documents, client records and legal paperwork should be secured in a waterproof/fireproof container.  Additionally, all digital files and databases should be backed up in at least two places; don’t rely on cloud-based technology alone.  Consider external drives for back up, one stored onsite and one offsite.

Having a hurricane or disaster-preparedness plan in place doesn’t just apply to Hurricane Dorian and areas susceptible to hurricane force winds.  From earthquakes and wildfires to hurricanes and tornadoes, your business should have a clear and written plan for all team members; by being proactive and planning ahead now, your team can feel more secure, safe and perhaps avoid the last-minute chaos that is so common with severe weather events.

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